The Virginia Tech Hokies made their postseason return last season in the WNIT and were able to get a win in the first round before going on the road and losing at Ohio. However, that was not enough to save Dennis Wolff’s job, and Whit Babcock made a change bringing in JMU head coach Kenny Brooks in what was another widely praised move by Babcock.
Now, Kenny Brooks begins his first year of the rebuild with a team that has some talented players returning and could definitely make it back to the WNIT.
Expectations are not high in year 1 of the Kenny Brooks era especially due to the frontcourt depth depletion that the Hokies lost due to graduation last season. Brooks also has dampened expectations knowing that part of his rebuild is going to be about establishing his culture that brought him so much success while at JMU.
However, Brooks has seen two of his counterparts come in and exceed expectations in big ways early with Buzz Williams taking Virginia Tech to the NIT in his second season and Justin Fuente having his team one win away from winning the ACC Coastal and clinching the Hokies’ first ACC Championship birth since 2011.
While the Hokies were not picked that highly in the ACC, the fact that they were picked 12th shows that making the WNIT is a reasonable hope for fans once again as Brooks tries to build the program into one that is consistently in the NCAA Tournament.
The good news is that Brooks has some quality pieces to work with in the backcourt and frontcourt led by forward Sidney Cook who led the Hokies with 10.7 points and 5.8 rebounds in only 23.3 minutes per game. Virginia Tech also has Regan Magarity in the frontcourt who wasn’t fully healthy last season but averaged 5.8 rebounds and 7.3 points last season. The duo of Cook and Magarity will have to make up for the Hokies losing their top two shot blockers while playing sound defense this season.
In the backcourt, the Hokies are led by point guard Chanette Hicks who averaged 8.5 points and led the Hokies with 4.2 assists and 2.8 steals per game last season as a freshman and seems to be a star in the making. Joining her in the backcourt will be veteran Vanessa Panousis who averaged 8.6 points and is a critical leader along with Cook on a roster with only three seniors in Cook, Panousis, and Sami Hill.
Virginia Tech has a few new players on this roster with none more intriguing that freshman guard Genesis Parker from Bristow, Virginia. Parker was the 62nd ranked recruit in the country by ESPN and has the talent to make an early impact similar to how Hicks did last year and provide some more depth while also potentially competing for a starting job depending on how Brooks wants his lineup and backcourt to look.
Virginia Tech will once again face a tough ACC schedule but could be a team to watch to pull off a couple of upsets while the Hokies also have a solid non-conference schedule headlined by games at home against Tennessee, Georgetown, and Nebraska plus road games against Auburn and UCF.
Kenny Brooks likely knows that this team will have some growing pains but the talent is there for the Hokies to make a return to the postseason via the WNIT once again.
Brooks was a home run hire for the Hokies and now, he gets his chance to show why he was the right choice for the job with an intriguing team that could surprise some people and has the talent to make the WNIT for the second straight season.
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